The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is likely to implement extensive water cuts across the city soon after the last phase of polling in Pune district for the Lok Sabha elections gets over on April 29. The civic body may have to take the step as water in the dams near the city has been drying up in the intense heat.
The PMC had considered water cuts earlier this year, after it was warned by the state Irrigation Department to reduce the amount it draws from the dams. But it was unable to implement the measure due to pressure from political parties, especially the BJP, the ruling party in the civic body. The political parties had been apprehensive about angering Pune residents right before the Lok Sabha elections.
“The water cut is inevitable, considering the low levels in the dams that supply water to the city. There is total of only 7 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) water in the four dams,” said a civic officer.
Pune receives water from Khadakwasla, Panshet, Varasgaon and Temghar dams.
The PMC official said, “The monsoon is still one-and-a-half months away and it will be a tough task to use the limited amount of water available for both drinking and irrigation purposes.” The PMC has received no official communication from the state Water Resource and Irrigation departments but, said the civic official, “The model code of conduct is likely to end in the state on May 2 and the decision will probably be taken soon after that.”
Usually, the state departments review water levels in the dams and recommend a proportionate water cut, while a final decision is taken by the state government, which also asks the respective civic body to restrict its usage of water.
Some areas in Pune have already faced shortage of water and they have been at the mercy of tankers for regular supply. “In summers, the amount of water usage increases and the demand for tankers will also increase accordingly,” said the PMC official. The civic body had earlier faced complaints about irregularities in the way tankers distribute water across the city and this year, it is planning to install GPS on the vehicles to ensure that water is distributed equally in all areas and there is no illegal sale of water.
As per its agreement with the Irrigation Department, the PMC is allowed to draw 11.5 TMC of water in a year and an additional 10 per cent — a total of 12.65 TMC — to meet increased demand. But, in October 2017, the irrigation department fixed the PMC’s quota at 8.16 TMC, citing the estimated population of 40 lakh in the city, and supply of approximately 155 litres per capita.
The PMC has also been asked to slash its water quota by the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority, which has directed it to draw 892 MLD (millions of litres per day) instead of the 1,350 MLD it draws now.
In a measure that took the PMC by surprise, the Irrigation Department had, in January, discontinued part of the water supply as the civic body was using more water than it was allowed to, but, under pressure from the opposition parties, the ruling BJP in the state and PMC had restored complete supply to the city soon.